If you live in Michigan (a state where most homeowners have hard water), you’re probably interested in what a whole-home water softener could do for you, and how much it will cost.
While only a plumber will be able to give you an exact estimate of how much your installation will cost, we can give you a range and explain the factors that impact that range.
On average, the total cost for installing a whole-home water softener in Michigan ranges from $1,200-$3,000.
Three main cost factors that impact the overall cost of installation include:
- The type of water softener
- The capacity of the water softener
- The efficiency of the water softener
Below, we’ll go into more detail about the benefits of a whole-home water softener and how the cost factors impact the cost of one.
Rather have a professional give you an exact estimate? Contact Thornton & Grooms. We’ve been installing whole-home water softeners for Michigan homeowners for 80+ years.
Benefits of installing a whole-home water softener
Don’t let the cost of a water softener be a deterrent. Whole-home water softeners provide a host of benefits that can help you save money in the long run, such as:
- Keeping scale from building up in your pipes: A whole-home water softener reduces the amount of hard minerals in your water, preventing them from building up in your pipes. Scale buildup can lead to pipe corrosion, so a water softener can help you save money you may have otherwise spent fixing the damage done by scale buildup.
- Preventing soap scum: Hard water minerals and soap creates soap scum, which can damage your ceramic tiling and water fixtures over time. A whole-home water softener prevents soap scum from forming by dissolving the hard minerals in the water.
- Reducing wear and tear on appliances, dishes and clothing: Hard water is rough on appliances, dishes and clothing. A whole-home water softener can help extend the lifespan of your appliances, dishes and clothing so you don’t have to replace them as often.
Even though installing a whole-home water softener can be expensive, it’s worth it in the end because it prevents you from having to repair your pipes, replace ceramic tiling, appliances, dishes and clothing.
Cost Factor #1: Type of water softener
There are two main types of water softeners:
- Ion exchangers
- Salt-free softeners
While these water softeners cost about the same to install, ion exchange water softeners cost less to maintain over their lifespan than salt-free softeners do.
Before we discuss the differences between ion exchange water softeners and salt-free softeners, let’s look at how a water softener works.
- Hard water is filtered through a mineral tank to be managed. Water softeners “manage” hard minerals (e.g. magnesium and calcium) by either removing or crystallizing the minerals out of the water.
- A catalyst agent (either salt or potassium depending on the softener type) is needed to manage the minerals. The catalyst agent supports the removal or crystallization process to get rid of hard minerals. It needs to be refilled in order to continue managing the minerals.
- Every so often, the water softener goes through a regeneration cycle. This is done to wash all the collected hard minerals off the system.
Now that you know the basics of how water softeners work, let’s cover the differences between the two types of softeners.
1. Ion exchangers: An ion exchanger removes hard mineral ions and replaces them with sodium ions. How? Ion exchange water softeners filter hard water through a mineral tank, which holds a bed of negatively-charged plastic beads.
The negative ion beads attract positively-charged hard minerals (like magnesium and calcium ions). The minerals stick to the negatively-charged beads, removing the minerals from the water supply.
The ion exchange water softener uses a sodium-based catalyst agent that helps the plastic beads maintain a negative charge. The sodium does add trace amounts of salt to the drinking water, which isn’t a bad thing unless you’re trying to reduce the amount of salt in your diet. A salt-based catalyst agent is cheaper to refill than a salt-free replacement, which we’ll discuss next.
2. Salt-free: Salt-free water softeners use a potassium-chloride solution as the catalyst agent instead of sodium. Salt-free systems prevent hard minerals from building up in your water by crystallizing the minerals and rendering them harmless—instead of removing them like ion-exchange systems do.
The potassium mixture that salt-free softeners use is more expensive to refill than a sodium catalyst agent. Potassium costs almost a dollar per pound and sodium costs less than 50 cents per pound. Depending on your water softener’s capacity, using a potassium solution could mean higher maintenance costs for your system.
Cost Factor #2: Capacity of the water softener
The capacity of a water softener is measured by the amount of hard minerals the system can remove (in grains) before it needs to go through a regeneration cycle. The more hard minerals a system can remove before it needs to regenerate, the higher the installation and maintenance costs will be.
Typically, water softener capacities range from 25,000 to 80,000+ grains.
What kind of capacity should you look for when buying a water softener?
Well, the harder your water is, the more minerals are in your water. And, the more water your household uses, the higher the volume of water that needs to be filtered.
So, if your home has very hard water or you have a large household, we’d suggest purchasing a high-capacity water softener.
For example, if you live in Michigan, you have hard to very hard water. Since Michigan water has over 7 grains of hard minerals per gallon of water, you’ll need a high-capacity water softener.
Cost Factor #3: Efficiency of the water softener
The efficiency of a water softener measures how quickly the system regenerates.
If the system regenerates quickly, you’ll probably pay more upfront for the installation. However, you’ll recuperate your investment. A fast regenerating water softener can save you a lot of money by cutting down the number of catalyst agent refills you need to do.
If you want an efficient water softener, look for a water softener that uses upflow regeneration. This method of regeneration reduces the amount of water and catalyst agent needed to clean the system of hard minerals, which saves you money in maintenance in the long run.
Want an affordable whole-home water softener installation? Contact Thornton & Grooms
We’ve been in the plumbing business for 80+ years so we know how stressful it can be to afford whole-home water softeners. That’s why we take the stress out of the investment by providing upfront pricing, flexible financing and 14 ironclad guarantees so you know you’ll get your money’s worth.
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